The NCCRC's statement on the murder of George Floyd and the protests
06/09/2020, Miscellaneous, All Basic Human Needs
The National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel (NCCRC) stands with Black individuals and communities protesting the murders of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Manuel Ellis, and countless others, as well as police brutality more broadly. Disproportionate police violence against Black people presents a constant threat to the health, safety, and dignity of families and communities. The racism behind it is a disease far harder to treat and cure than COVID-19. We applaud the protests bringing longstanding issues of inequality, such as police violence, front and center nationwide so that their truth can no longer be denied. This country must finally confront its ugly history of structural racism, and root it out in all of its institutions, whether law enforcement, housing markets, courts, or elsewhere.
It must also be recognized that the experience of Black people securing, living in, and losing housing is similarly marred by racial inequality intertwined with police violence:
- The problems Black families face in finding and retaining affordable, safe housing stem in part from decades of de facto and de jure housing discrimination combined with structural racism in the workplace and discriminatory law enforcement policies that have caused job and housing loss. Some of these explain why Black people are disproportionately forced to rely on public housing, which has long suffered from aggressive and abusive policing.
- The eviction process is a farce: in some cities, evictions are disposed of with as little as 30 seconds of court time. Black tenants, who are evicted at many times the rate of white tenants, suffer the most from this lack of due process. The lack of a widespread right to counsel also disproportionately impacts Black people, since absent a right virtually all tenants go unrepresented while nearly all landlords have counsel. The housing courts themselves also suffer from a racial disparity, in that there are disproportionately few Black judges. With a huge representational imbalance combined with the complete lack of due process, housing court is little more than a mill that churns through Black communities, dispossessing them of one of their most basic human needs.
- The end of the eviction process involves a form of violent police action, when sheriffs eject tenants from their homes and put everything they own on the street.
- Black people form a disproportionate portion of the homeless population. The history between the homeless community and the police is filled with harassment and arrests that wreck the lives of many homeless individuals and families. Furthermore, homelessness imperils many other basic human needs, such as health, education, child custody, and employment.
COVID-19, far from being the “great equalizer”, has attacked Black communities at an alarmingly disproportionate rate in part because of health and income issues caused by housing insecurity, and it is putting far more Black families into the eviction mill.
While our organization fights for fundamental fairness in the courts and has worked to make race equity and inclusion in housing a part of our internal and external focus, we still have much more to do to center Black communities in reform efforts, and not merely assist them. Furthermore, it is essential that all social justice organizations such as ours work to listen to, lift up, and amplify Black voices speaking out on racism. Finally, it is critical that all people recognize their responsibility to call out racism in all its forms, and that society has a responsibility to go beyond simply being not racist in order to become anti-racist. As the struggle for racial equality continues, we pledge to strive for greater understanding, listening, and acting.